Australia has often been criticised for lagging behind other countries such as the United States, both in its recognition of the important role played by whistleblowers, and in its lack of support for them. Whistleblowers play a vital role in the system of checks and balances that underpin the integrity of our corporate governance and many would argue, protection for Australian whistleblowers is long overdue.
Whistleblowers who call out corporate corruption in America receive government payouts, but far from being rewarded for their role in exposing serious corruption, those in Australia have typically suffered stress, isolation, anxiety, unemployment and an uncertain future.
While the Australian government has not committed to financially rewarding whistleblowers, the parliamentary inquiry will examine whether the bounty system that operates in the US should be introduced here.
The matters to be referred to the Parliamentary Joint committee on Corporations and Financial Services are as follows:
- the development and implementation in the corporate, public and not-for-profit sectors of whistleblower protections, taking into account the substance and detail of that contained in the Registered Organisation Commission (ROC) legislation passed by the Parliament in November 2016;
- the types of wrongdoing to which a comprehensive whistleblower protection regime for the corporate, public and not-for-profit sectors should apply;
- the most effective ways of integrating whistleblower protection requirements for the corporate, public and not-for-profit sectors into Commonwealth law;
- compensation arrangements in whistleblower legislation across different jurisdictions, including the bounty systems used in the United States of America;
- measures needed to ensure effective access to justice, including legal services, for persons who make or may make disclosures and require access to protection as a whistleblower;
- the definition of detrimental action and reprisal, and the interaction between and, if necessary, separation of criminal and civil liability;
- the obligations on corporate, not-for-profit and public sector organisation’s to prepare, publish and apply procedures to support and protect persons who make or may make disclosures, and their liability if they fail to do so or fail to ensure the procedures are followed;
- the obligations on independent regulatory and law enforcement agencies to ensure the proper protection of whistleblowers and investigation of whistleblower disclosures;
- the circumstances in which public interest disclosures to third parties or the media should attract protection;
- any other matters relating to the enhancement of protections and the type and availability of remedies for whistleblowers in the corporate, not-for-profit and public sectors; and
- Any related matters.
The new legislation is likely to be heavily influenced by the result of this enquiry. The Joint Parliamentary Committee on Corporations and Financial Services is due to report on 17 August 2017.
Stopline will provide you with more information about the results of the enquiry after the official report has been released.